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Ken Burns: What Is a National Treasure?

Ken Burns

By Neil Pond (original source Parade)

“Parade’s National Treasures are similar to many of the subjects and topics that you have pursued in your films.

Yeah. I’m curious about how my country works. Each film asks a deceptively simple question: Who are we—these strange and complicated people who like to call themselves Americans? And the investigation of those cherished places, institutions and people becomes a way into a collective national sense of identity that is particularly lost in immediate culture that is so interested in pointing out the differences, that’s so interested in how we’re separate from each other: We’re either black or white. We’re young; we’re old. We’re rich; we’re poor. We’re gay; we’re straight. We’re East; we’re West. We’re North; we’re South. We’re Red State; we’re Blue State. We always make these distinctions, forgetting that we share much more in common than we do in our differences. So I’ve been interested in those stories that bind us together that suggest the ways in which we might cohere.”

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